‘Gimlets’ continue support of Big Island veterans cemetery

| October 5, 2012 | 0 Comments
POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA — Pfc. Anthony Dye (left) and Staff Sgt. Jo Cote (right), both with 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 25th Inf. Division, plant Native Hawaiian plants at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery, here, Sept. 29.

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA — Pfc. Anthony Dye (left) and Staff Sgt. Jo Cote (right), both with 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 25th Inf. Division, plant Native Hawaiian plants at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery, here, Sept. 29.

Story and photos by Bob McElroy
U.S. Army Garrison-Pohakuloa

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA, Hawaii — Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, “Gimlets,” 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, continued the work of their predecessors when they spent Saturday morning, Sept. 29, planting Native Hawaiian trees and shrubs at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery, here on the island of Hawaii.

The 15 Soldiers are the latest from the 25th ID to support the cemetery.

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA — Staff Sgt. Jo Cote (right), S-2 section, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Inf. Division, and another volunteer prepare a hole for a new plant at West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery, here, Sept. 29. Cote and 14 other Soldiers from the battalion volunteered to help plant Native Hawaiian plants alongside nearly 100 community volunteers. (Photo by Bob McElroy | U.S. Army Garrison-Pohakuloa Public Affairs)

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA — Staff Sgt. Jo Cote (right), S-2 section, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Inf. Division, and another volunteer prepare a hole for a new plant at West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery, here, Sept. 29. Cote and 14 other Soldiers from the battalion volunteered to help plant Native Hawaiian plants alongside nearly 100 community volunteers. (Photo by Bob McElroy | U.S. Army Garrison-Pohakuloa Public Affairs)

Since 2005 Schofield-based Soldiers training, here, have joined community volunteers to restore the dryland forest, which used to flourish in the area.

Sept. 29, their task was to plant Native Hawaiian plants in a flat field of a‘a lava overlooking the cemetery. Each Soldier received one small plant to put in the ground.

The Soldiers first cleared a small hole in the a‘a with their hands or broke through it with metal tools. Next, they laid soil in the hole and gently placed their plants in it. Finally, they placed dried grass on top of the soil to protect the new plants.

A network of plastic tubing dispenses drops of water to each plant at a controlled rate. This drip or trickle irrigation system is efficient and doesn’t waste water.

One of the Soldiers who volunteered, Staff Sgt. Jo Cote, said she was happy to give something back to the community.

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA — Capt. Michael Frey (left), assistant S-3, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Inf. Division, and 2nd Lt. Lilia Barrera, battalion assistant, S-2, 1st Bn., 21st Inf. Regt., help plant Native Hawaiian plants at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery, here, Sept. 29.

POHAKULOA TRAINING AREA — Capt. Michael Frey (left), assistant S-3, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Inf. Division, and 2nd Lt. Lilia Barrera, battalion assistant, S-2, 1st Bn., 21st Inf. Regt., help plant Native Hawaiian plants at the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery, here, Sept. 29.

“I was fighting to get out here, to do something to let people know we appreciate their support,” Cote said. “Sometimes, we (Soldiers) get bad stereotypes. I want to try to change that.”

When the West Hawaii Veterans Cemetery was established in 1994, it was a dry, dusty and barren area. The once vast Hawaiian dryland forest, which had surrounded it, was gone, eaten away by wild goats.

The reforestation began in 2005 as a joint effort of the University of Hawaii, veterans groups, schools, community organizations and active duty military and civilian volunteers from Pohakuloa Training Area. To date, more than 10,000 native plants have been planted on the hill overlooking the cemetery.

Richard Stevens, reforestation project coordinator for the cemetery, said that having Soldiers work side by side with community volunteers and veterans the last few years has been special.

“It really adds an extra element, an extra energy to have the troops here. For one thing, it means a lot more to the veterans when they see active duty troops here; they feel such a connection,” Stevens said.

“They do such an energetic job up there on the hill, and they enjoy it so much that it makes us really feel good,” Stevens added. “Having active duty military here is very special for us.”

The experience was special for the Soldiers, as well. 2nd Lt. Lilia Barrera, 1-21st Inf. Regt. assistant S-2, summed it up succinctly.

“I’m a tree hugger at heart,” she said. “It feels good to give back.”

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Category: Army Community Covenant, Community, Community Relations, Deployed Forces, Safety, Sustainability, U.S. Army Garrison-Pohakuloa (USAG-Pohakuloa)

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